Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine

Aotearoa New Zealand is at very high risk of a measles outbreak. The best protection against this serious disease is immunisation.

The MMR vaccine is free for all children in NZ, and all adults born after 1969 if they’re eligible for free NZ healthcare. It protects against 3 viral infections – measles, mumps and rubella.

What the MMR vaccine protects you from

The MMR vaccine protects from 3 diseases. It is not possible to separate these diseases out. For example, there is no ‘measles only’ vaccine available in New Zealand.


Of all diseases, measles is one of the most dangerous and contagious. It’s so infectious that, if you’re not vaccinated and come into contact with someone who has measles, you’re very likely to catch it and pass it on to others.

Measles spreads through coughing and sneezing. It can cause a rash, ear infection, diarrhoea, and seizures caused by fever.

In 1 in every 1,000 cases, it causes inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Some people who develop encephalitis die, while 1 in 3 are left with permanent brain damage.

Measles can also lead to pneumonia, which is the main cause of death from measles.

If you get measles while you’re pregnant it can make you very sick and can harm your baby.

Measles is now the third most common vaccine-preventable cause of death among children throughout the world.

During New Zealand’s last measles outbreak in 2019, 40% of children who caught measles were admitted to hospital.

More about measles – IMAC

Why New Zealand is at high risk of a measles outbreak

With active measles cases around the world, Aotearoa New Zealand is at very high risk of measles coming into the country.

Not enough people in New Zealand are immunised against measles, which means it could just take a single case of measles to start an outbreak.

We need at least 95% of people living in New Zealand to be immunised to prevent an outbreak of measles. Importantly, this would also protect babies too young to be vaccinated, and those who are severely immunocompromised.

On average, 1 dose is 95% effective against measles, and 2 doses is more than 99% effective against measles.


Mumps is an infectious illness caused by a virus. It leads to painful swelling in the salivary glands around the face.

In rare cases, there can be serious complications such as:

  • hearing loss
  • meningitis – an infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord
  • encephalitis – inflammation of the brain.

Mumps can cause swelling of the testicles or ovaries if infected after puberty. Effects on fertility are extremely rare in males and unconfirmed in females.

New Zealand had an outbreak of Mumps in 2017. This only settled and finally disappeared with the first COVID-19 lockdown because the disease wasn't able to spread easily.

More about mumps – IMAC


For children, rubella is usually a mild viral illness that causes a spotty rash. If you catch it when you are pregnant, however, it can cause serious birth defects in your baby (such as deafness, heart defects, and brain damage).

More about rubella – IMAC

When it’s given and catching up

The MMR vaccine is offered to tamariki on the schedule at 12 months and 15 months, but an additional early dose may be available if there is an outbreak of measles.

For those who missed out on their MMR immunisations, it’s free for everyone under 18 years old – it does not matter what your visa or citizenship status is. This includes visitors to Aotearoa New Zealand.

For people over 18 years old, the MMR vaccine is free if you’re a resident, or eligible for free healthcare in New Zealand. Adults born before 1969 are not able to have an MMR vaccine.

Booking a vaccination appointment

Vaccination sites that give MMR vaccinations – Healthpoint

Catching up on missed immunisations

Pēpi (babies) 6 to 11 months

If there is a measles outbreak, or if you’re travelling to a country with an active measles outbreak, pēpi between the ages of 6 and 11 months may be advised to have an additional free dose of the MMR vaccine early. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider about this.

It’s very important your child still has their scheduled 2 doses at 12 and 15 months old.

Tamariki 12 months and 15 months old

The MMR vaccine is free and offered to tamariki at 12 months and 15 months.

If your child missed their MMR vaccine it’s free for them to catch up.

If you’re unable to confirm if they’ve already had 2 doses, they should get vaccinated anyway. There’s no risk in having extra doses.

Adults born after 1 January 1969

Many adults and rangatahi (young people) born between 1989 and 2004 in New Zealand were not vaccinated against measles.

Adults need to be up to date with MMR vaccinations to protect themselves and their community. For best protection, 2 doses are needed, a minimum of 4 weeks apart.

To check whether you have been vaccinated, contact your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider.

If you’re unable to find out if you have been vaccinated, it’s recommended you get vaccinated as soon as possible. There’s no risk in getting extra MMR doses – it’s important to know you’ve had 2 doses.

The MMR vaccine is free for:

  • everyone under 18 years old (it does not matter what their visa or citizenship status is) and
  • those eligible for free healthcare in New Zealand (who were born on or after 1 January 1969).

Who can get free healthcare in New Zealand – Te Whatu Ora

Adults born before 1969

Adults born in New Zealand before the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1969 are not considered at risk from measles and do not need an MMR vaccine. This is because measles was common in New Zealand at the time, so most people built natural immunity from exposure.

Immunocompromised people cannot have the MMR vaccine

Anyone who has a severely weakened immune system cannot have the MMR vaccine – for example, people having cancer treatment.

To protect them, it’s very important all whānau around immunocompromised people are fully vaccinated against MMR.

If you’re pregnant

You cannot have the MMR vaccine when you are pregnant. If you’re planning a baby, it’s free to find out if you’re immune to rubella. If you’re not, it’s free to get vaccinated.

After your baby is born, it may be recommended that you have a free measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisation. You should do this as soon as you can.

Immunisation and pregnancy


If you’re travelling to countries that have measles in their community, it’s really important you and your whānau are up to date with your MMR vaccinations. You can check current outbreaks on the following websites:

How to book a measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine

Getting immunised against measles, mumps, and rubella is easy, and it’s free.

Contact your usual doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider to book an appointment.

People over 2 years old can get an MMR vaccine at lots of pharmacies. You can search for one near you on Healthpoint.

Pharmacies offering MMR vaccinations – Healthpoint

Some sites offer group appointments for immunisations. Contact your doctor, nurse, healthcare provider, or pharmacy to see if your whānau can have a group appointment so you can all get vaccinated together.

Which vaccine is used

The vaccine we use in New Zealand is Priorix. This vaccine which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. 2 doses, at least a month apart, are needed for best protection.

There is no ‘measles only’ vaccine available in New Zealand.

Priorix is a live vaccine. Live vaccines contain bacteria or viruses that have been weakened so that they can't cause disease. This small amount of virus or bacteria stimulates an immune response.

Priorix information – Medsafe (PDF)

Video: The measles vaccine with Dr Hina Lutui

About measles and the vaccine

We know that measles is actually really really contagious.

If one person is infected, you can actually spread it to around 15 to 18 people and it's not a nice disease to have it can make you feel really sick and awful.

Quite often people can end up in hospital because they're so sick and unwell from the infection.

There is no real good treatment to be honest, so the best thing that you

can do is actually get vaccinated so you get your body ready to fight off the infection.

If you're all protected, so if I'm vaccinated, every one of my family is vaccinated and someone comes to the house and they've got measles or mumps they actually don't pass it on to us, because the vaccine has actually helped protect us from actually getting the measles, or if we do get it we fight off so well that we don't spread it around we don't give it to other people.

How does the measles vaccine work? What are the side effects?

The vaccine which protects us against measles comes in a combination it's called the MMR.  

So measles, mumps, rubella so you actually get protected against 3 different diseases at the same time, which is great news.

MMR vaccine is supposed to stimulate your body to be able to fight off infection if it sees the disease in real-time and so that potentially means that you can have some of those side effects that occur when you are vaccinated.

Getting a temperature that you may actually get a rash afterwards for the vaccine that's actually quite common.

Some people might find their glands actually go up after having the vaccine and some people they can have a little bit of an achy body.

For some people the symptoms may occur in the first few hours, for others it can occur up to a week or two weeks later, but actually they stay well with it, so despite having some mild side effects they actually stay very well.

What should I do if I'm not sure if I have had a measles vaccine?

So if you're not sure if you're vaccinated or not then just talk to your GP or GP nurse, they'll be able to look it up on their system.

Sometimes you may have had your childhood imms book. We can have a look through there and see if you've had the full vaccinations because you only need 2 doses to be fully vaccinated.

But even if we're not sure, if we can't find the records or we think you might be partially vaccinated. It actually does you no harm to have an extra vaccination.


Side effects and reactions

Like most medicines, vaccines can sometimes cause reactions. These are usually mild, and not everyone will get them.

Mild reactions are normal and shows that your immune system is responding to the vaccine.

If you’re going to have any reactions, they normally happen in the first few days after getting vaccinated. The vaccine itself is gone from your body within a few hours or days.

The most common reaction to an immunisation includes:

  • a slight fever
  • pain or swelling where the needle went in.

Other reactions

Other common reactions of the MMR vaccine include:

  • mild rash (between 6 and 12 days after immunisation)
  • high fever (over 39°C – between 6 and 12 days after immunisation)
  • swollen glands in the cheeks, neck, or under the jaw
  • temporary joint pain (2 to 4 weeks after immunisation).

A very rare side effect is bruise-like spots that appear 15 days to 6 weeks after immunisation. This is mild, and usually goes away within 6 months.

Serious side effects are rare. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or nurse, or call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116.

Call 111 if you’re worried you, or your child, is having a serious reaction.

How to treat common reactions

Allergic reactions

Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. Only about 1 in 1 million people will experience this.

Your vaccinator is well-trained and knows what to look for and can treat an allergic reaction quickly if it happens.

Serious allergic reactions normally happen within the first few minutes of vaccination, this is why you need to wait for up to 20 minutes after immunisation.